Why Romania should be your next trip

by Carlie Porterfield
Stripes Europe

Romania, along with the rest of Eastern Europe, is often overlooked by potential guests in favor of cities further west — but to count out Romania for your next holiday would be a mistake.

Romania has something to offer any traveler, regardless of their interests. From wandering the cobbled-stone streets of medieval city centres to navigating a young, urban city still recovering from the rule of a dictator, there’s a path for everyone.

The American dollar is strong against the Romanian leu, making Romania a budget-friendly destination without compromising a good time. Visitors report that locals are warm, welcoming and often speak good English. Trains run throughout the country, but a road trip shouldn’t be discounted, as views in the countryside are beautiful and worth side trips.

Bucharest, the capital, is gritty and cool with spirited nightlife. The architecture of the city is an eclectic mix of Communist-era housing blocks, Neoclassical monuments and elegant, interbellum streets that earned Bucharest the nickname of "Little Paris." In recent years, Bucharest has enjoyed an economic and cultural resurgence. Visitors can spend their days in classic art and history museums, or venture into trendy neighborhoods for shopping, eating at street cafes and visiting hip coffee shops.

For a more relaxing experience in Bucharest, a quick drive out of the city center is Therme Bucuresti, the largest wellness center in Europe. Featuring indoor pools, saunas and waterslides, visitors of all ages can spend a few hours lounging in thermal water from deep underground for as little as 11 dollars.

Another Bucharest spot that can’t be missed is the Palace of the Parliament, a gigantic Communist-era building that is the second largest administrative building in the world (only the Pentagon in the United States is larger). It is available for tours daily, with guides to explain the ins and outs of the massive building. It was built under the directions of Nicolae Ceaușescu, Romania’s first president. The palace was a part of Ceaușescu’s larger systemization project, inspired by a visit to North Korea.

Ceaușescu insisted that older buildings be torn down, with new socialist-style ones to be built in their place. Today, the leftovers of this policy can be the scores of socialist apartment blocks in the city. Many can be rented out for short periods of time, and offer visitors a chance to experience life in a typical Bucharesti flat.

Ceaușescu didn’t have a chance to extend his urban planning policies very far beyond the capital before he was taken out of power in a 1989 coup. Visitors say that compared to Bucharest’s gritty urban feel, the rest of Romania looks like a fairy tale, with medieval structures still in use by residents today.

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